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All We Are

by: Sally R. (Send Feedback)

Chapters: 002 Word Count: 10652
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Josh Lyman, Donna Moss
Category(ies): Angst, Post-Episode, Romance
Pairing(s): Josh/Donna
Episode(s): 7-09 The Wedding
Crossover Shows: - No Show -
Summary:

Chapters: 1 | 2

Next Chapter

And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
"Touched by an Angel" - Maya Angelou

Part One

The room was washed in shades of ivory and peach, the sunlight - as if ordered just for the occasion - filtered through the long windows and danced with the dust motes, the perfume, and the flowers. It was picture perfect.
Donna stood with the rest of the crowd, next to the aisle, and joined the collective intake of breath as the President and his daughter made their entrance. Ellie was lovely, radiant. Sublimely content, and happier than Donna could ever imagine feeling, she looked like a woman with nothing to prove, at ease with herself even amid all the pomp and circumstance she had shunned for so long. Donna felt an ungenerous pang of envy; some people, it seemed, led charmed lives…

Not that Donna had anything to complain about, not given where she'd started and where she now was. Plenty of people might considered her life charmed. But those people wouldn't know the truth of it, they wouldn't know what she'd had to sacrifice in the scramble to 'make it'. And perhaps she didn't know the truth about Ellie's life either, but nevertheless, at that moment, she-

Something caught her eye, just as the bride passed by. Donna looked across the aisle and saw Josh slipping into his seat, almost directly opposite her. He cut a saturnine figure, sharply at odds with the champagne-bubble atmosphere. Lost in thought, his eyes were turned inward, dark and bruised.

Donna couldn't look away, trying to divine from his stance - from the tension in his shoulders, the tightness in his jaw - if they'd actually done it. If they'd actually cut him loose. She'd seen them, of course, plotting in corners. Everyone had, which made it all the more humiliating for him. She'd been hearing whispers for a while now, that he wasn't up to the job - too young, too arrogant, too egotistical. And she'd heard the pundits on TV, carping about Illinois with 20:20 hindsight and nothing at stake. The armchair experts made her sick - Josh had more talent, more drive, more idealism in his little toe than any of them possessed in their bloated, over-fed bodies. But these whispering campaigns were insidious, undermining from within, like termites pulling down a mighty structure with their constant nibbling at the foundations.

"Please be seated…"

She did so, and tried to concentrate on the wedding. But it seemed a pallid affair now, and her eyes kept alighting on the grey or balding heads of the conspirators. She knew them all, some long-time enemies of Josh, others just climbing on the bandwagon, and she found herself despising them. Hating them, actually, for their disloyalty, ingratitude, and short-sightedness. If they'd replaced Josh with some no-talent party hack then…then… Then what? She'd quit? Yeah, that would show them.

She puffed out an angry sigh and glanced over at Josh. He was watching her, but quickly looked away when she caught him staring. He never looked at her anymore; it had become a feature of their current relationship. She'd noticed it almost as soon as she'd started working on the campaign. He'd look at her shoulder, at a point just past her ear, sometimes at her lips, but never at her eyes. She wondered what he was afraid of seeing there, but didn't dare ask. She was too afraid of the answer. But today, damn it, she wanted him to look at her - to tell her what had happened. So she kept staring at him, even when they stood to sing their first hymn, and he must have felt her gaze because his eyes darted toward her and away again once, twice, three times before he at last looked at her for real.

Not even pretending to sing, she lifted her eyebrows in a question and mouthed, what happened?

He stared down at his feet for a moment, and she saw his shoulders rise and fall in a sigh before he looked at her again and shrugged. Brilliant!

She shrugged back, helpless and frustrated. What the hell does that mean?

He lifted a hand and deliberately, slowly, drew a finger across his throat.

No… Her heart dropped. They'd fired him? It was impossible! "What?" The word hissed across the aisle, and turned a couple of surprised heads. She offered them an innocent smile before returning her gaze to Josh.

He was staring straight ahead, once more lost in contemplation. Donna thought her heart might break. How could they do this to him? Of all people. He'd built this up from scratch, he'd given up everything for this, worked himself ragged, and now, at the last moment, to snatch it away from him... It was just cruel. Sudden, angry tears pricked behind her eyes and she blinked them hurriedly away. She never cried at weddings, and wasn't about to start.

Toward the front of the congregation she caught sight of Congressman Santos, his dark hair stark against the preponderance of grey. She had a sudden urge to stand on her chair and start yelling traitor! at the top of her voice. If it wasn't for Josh he'd be back in Houston, sitting on the local school board, instead of here, with a realistic shot at the White House. How could he even consider firing Josh? What did that say about his integrity as a man, as a politician - as a leader?

She twisted the ivory order of service tightly in her hands, her stomach feeling pretty much the same.

Maybe she would quit after all. Not to prove anything - it's not like anyone cared what she did - but, in all honesty, how could she keep campaigning for this man? She wasn't even sure she could even vote for him! If he was prepared to cut Josh loose, just because the going got a little tough, then-

A small ball of paper hit her hands, bounced off and landed on the floor. She looked over at Josh, who nodded to the floor at her feet. Well, this was typical. Trying not to look too obvious, she leaned down and snatched up the paper. It was the back cover of the order of service, on which he'd scrawled,

You look like you're about to un-spool. It's okay, Leo stepped in. I still have a job, much to everyone's disappointment.

Her sharp relief was tempered by a still smouldering anger. Much to everyone's disappointment… Yeah, I bet. Looking up, she smiled at him, but Josh just shrugged and turned his attention back to the wedding. It was an empty victory, she knew. The only thing keeping him in place was Leo running interference; she knew how he'd take that. Leo was his mentor, the man he respected above all others - the President included - and if he felt that he'd let Leo down, or that Leo was having to protect him, then he'd feel like he'd failed.

And Josh hated failing. It ate at him, body and soul. She'd seen it before, seen it shatter his confidence so deeply that she wasn't entirely sure he'd ever recovered. People said he was arrogant, but he wasn't. Not really. If he bullied and hammered people into submission it was because, deep down, he was terrified of failing. Of being seen to fail…

She felt cold suddenly, her mind's eye picturing the TV coverage, the newspaper op-eds. Thank goodness for Leo; at least he still had one friend in high places. And Leo, better than anyone, understood Josh. And loved him, Donna believed. Leo would protect him.

The rest of the ceremony passed slowly. Her chair felt uncomfortable, the air stifling. She wanted to get out, move and breathe. Mostly she wanted to talk to Josh, to find out in detail what had happened. But he didn't look in her direction once for the rest of the wedding, not even when the vows were exchanged. Stupid, idle fantasy, she knew, but she'd held out half a hope that their eyes would meet across a crowded room and -

Yeah, right. Their eyes never met anymore, they hardly even spoke. Not like they used to, in his office, over breakfast, or dinner or… She sighed at the familiar regrets; there, right there, was the biggest thing she'd sacrificed on her meteoric rise through the ranks. His friendship.

At the time she'd thrown it away, happy to be rid of something that seemed to cause more pain than pleasure, but now - with the benefit of almost a year between them - she understood its value better. To be of consequence to a man like Josh… It was something, it was quite something.

Fortunately her maudlin thoughts were shattered by the triumphant fanfare of a quartet of…trumpets? Bugles? Something loud that made her jump. Everyone was on their feet, smiling, clapping, trying to get a good view as Ellie and her new husband walked beaming down the aisle, the President and First Lady in tow. The other dignitaries followed suit, and soon there was a general hubbub filling the room to bursting. She could still see Josh on the other side of the aisle, saw him nod at the President, smile for the bride. And then someone looking royal and important passed her by - were those real diamonds on that tiara? - and when she looked back he was gone.

She stood on tip-toe to see over the heads of a dozen foreign dignitaries, but every tux looked the same and she knew he'd slipped away. Damn!

Folding his crumpled note neatly in half she slipped it into her purse and tried to decide what to do next. Josh needed a friend, and whether he liked it or not, she was going to be it.

***

The music sounded like knives being sharpened, the scrape, scrape, scrape of violins like a whetstone on the silver blade of a dagger. Josh hated it. He hated the crowds, the smiles, and the quiet whispers behind his back.

He hated knowing they were right.

He'd been up all night, worrying at the numbers, trying to make it work -second guessing himself at every turn - and he felt stretched thin. Six weeks out, and everything to play for, he knew he could have cost them the election. His mistake, his misjudgement. And whatever Leo said, Josh wasn't convinced that the mistake had been unavoidable. He knew he'd been off his game, distracted. For months now, if he was honest with himself.

He should be sharper, he should be better than this. He was better than this, or he had been. Fact was, he was losing his edge - along with his hair. Maybe he was just getting old? Burned out. He'd lost something, that was for sure. He just couldn't quite put his finger on what…

"Hey, you." He broke out of his dour reverie and saw CJ, like a vision from his glory days, holding out a champagne glass. "You might as well have this, I can't."

He took it and offered a slight smile in return. "Why not? Global crisis or baby on the way?"

CJ didn't answer, just fixed him with a killer look. "Your schoolboy 'humour' - and I use the term loosely - doesn't fool me, Joshua Lyman. I could see the dark clouds hovering from the other side of the room."

"So you took pity on the leper at the feast?"

"Wow, we are feeling sorry for ourself, aren't we?"

He didn't answer, but knocked back a good half of the champagne. It tasted bitter.

"Donna was looking for you earlier," CJ said, fixing him with a look that he couldn't decipher. It was somewhere between a smirk and a question.

"I'm avoiding her," he replied, draining his glass and wishing he had a second. Right now drunken oblivion had a certain appeal.

CJ raised an eyebrow and leaned against the wall. "I have world war three about to blow up in my face," she said, "but for some reason, known only to God himself, I'm going to ask you why."

He looked away, out through the ridiculously happy crowd of dignitaries, and feigned ignorance. "Why what?"

"Why are you avoiding Donna?"

"Does it matter?" The question crested a nervous laugh that he didn't really feel.

There was a short pause. CJ shifted - shiftily, he thought - and said, "Let's just say I have a personal interest."

His eyebrows rose. "In…Donna?"

"Oh for the love of God, Joshua!" She poked him hard on the arm, almost knocking him off balance. "In the situation."

He could feel the tension curling inside, unnamed and unnameable. He tried to ignore it. "What situation?"

"Are you a complete idiot?"

His slight humour evaporated. "Apparently so, if you ask half the people in this room."

"Don't be stupid."

"That too."

"No one thinks you're-"

"Oh come on!" he snapped, pacing half a step away from her and back again. "They want to replace me, CJ! No one thinks I'm up to the job, and if Leo hadn't- They're just waiting for me to fall flat on my face so they can laugh and point."

CJ folded her arms and skewered him with a gaze that pinned him to the wall. "You think I don't know what that's like? You think that when I took over from Leo - from Leo McGarry! - that everyone wasn't waiting for me to fall flat on my face, waiting to laugh and point? You think I don't know what it's like to do a job that's so impossibly vast that you feel like you're drowning in it?"

He blew out a contrite sigh, glanced at her angry, concerned face, and felt like an idiot all over again. "Yeah. Yeah, sorry. It's just-"

"You don't do well on your own, huh?"

"Not so much."

She took a deep breath. "Which brings me back to my original question."

If he let his mind go blank, Josh knew, the whole thing would just slip away. He'd learned that, over the years. You could just let some things go, like melting ice, if you just refused to acknowledge their existence. He suspected the various Stanleys in his life would have had something to say about that, but decided to let that thought slip away too.

"Josh?"

"Huh?"

"Why are you avoiding Donna?"

He shook his head, snorting a quiet laugh. "I was joking. I'm not really avoiding-"

"Oh please," CJ said, but it was gentle and lacked any irritation. "You're still mad at her for leaving?"

That knot of tension in his stomach threatened to turn into an ulcer. On the other side of the room he could see Leo talking to Tripplehorn and Josh felt suddenly nauseous. "I…have to get back to headquarters," he said abruptly. "Work on these numbers some more and-"

"Josh?" Her hand was on his arm, strong and unyielding. "Don't blame her."

"I don't."

"If it had been up to her…" CJ paused. She looked like she was on the point of a confession and, edging a little closer, said, "I may have…possibly…suggested that she leave."

Josh felt the breath die in his chest. "You…did what?"

"I pointed out a few home truths," CJ said, her bright eyes quietly defiant. "And I don't regret that, but…"

"You told her to leave me?" He couldn't get past that, somehow.

"Oh, don't look at me like I just stuck a knife in your back!" CJ protested. "She was going nowhere, wasting her talent. Look at her now - look what she's done in just one year."

One year away from you. "Yeah," he said, dropping her gaze and letting his own turn inward. Truth was, he didn't want to look at Donna now. It was like gazing into the sun, too dazzling and ultimately damaging. Without him she'd soared like a caged bird freed. Funny, he thought distractedly, that CJ had opened the door and he hadn't even known.

"Josh?"

He couldn't talk about this now, not with his most recent screw-up stuck in his throat. He could only swallow his failures one at a time. "I really have to go-"

"You think she got this good from eight months on the Russell campaign?" CJ said, talking over him. "Look at her, Josh. You made her what she is."

"Yeah?" He slid her a sideways look. "Not according to Donna."

CJ seemed surprised. "Did she say that?"

"Yeah. Something like that. Something about a short-order cook and a…spatula."

CJ's sculpted eyebrows rose. "A spatula?"

He just shrugged. "It's…Donna."

"You should-" Her purse started to bleep, and reading her page she winced. "I have to…" She nodded in the general direction of the Oval office.

"World war three?"

"Or worse. Listen, Josh?" She was already walking, and grabbed his arm to pull him along. "There's something you need to know."

Holy crap! "About world w-"

She smacked him lightly on the arm. "About Donna! About why she left."

"I think I know everything I want to about-"

"Would you just shut up and listen for ten seconds?"

Clamping his jaw shut he said no more as she pulled him out of the room and into the cool quiet of the corridors beyond. He was aware of the secret service lurking in the shadows, muttering into their headsets, and guessed the President was on the move too. "Listen," CJ said, talking fast - like a briefing - "I may have misjudged the situation a little. I may have… I may have misrepresented your motives to Donna."

"What motives? What are you talking about?"

They were at the stairs now, heading down to the sit room. "I may have suggested that the reason you hamstrung all her opportunities for advancement was because you knew you'd never find an assistant as good. Because, at the time, I didn't realise, you know, the other thing."

He just stared at her, at a loss. "I actually have no idea what you're talking about."

The President was up ahead, just entering the sit room, a flood of suits passing them on either side. "Okay, I have no time for subtly Josh," CJ said, slowing her pace but keeping one eye on the open door ahead. "I apologise if this is blunt, but world war three is about to break out and if I don't tell you now I might never have the chance."

"If you're about to declare your undying-"

"Josh!"

He shut up.

"When I spoke to Donna," CJ said, "I thought she'd stayed in the job because she had a crush on you, and that you kept her around because it was convenient."

A crush? On him? Donna? He felt himself smiling for the first time all evening. "Really? She-"

"Stop talking!"

They were at the door now, and Josh could see the great and the good assemble inside. It was a struggle to tamp down a fierce desire to jump in and join the action. To just be back in the middle of all this.

"Josh?" CJ demanded his attention with a quiet voice that cracked like a whip.

"Yeah?"

"It wasn't until she was hurt, in Gaza, that I realised I was wrong."

"About what?"

For a moment her commanding features softened into a beat of affection. "You love her, Josh, and you should tell her."

He felt his jaw hit the floor, the denial instant and unthinking. "I don't…"

But CJ was already gone, and the sit room door was shut in his face. The only person left in the corridor was a six-foot-something quarterback, wired for sound and gazing at Josh with polite disdain. Josh offered a smile. "I was just… Yeah. Leaving."

He turned on his heel and began to walk slowly back the way they'd come. He didn't love Donna, that was ridiculous. Except that unnameable tension in his stomach was churning in recognition, that hollow patch in his chest was echoing with the word, and the greyness in his mind was suddenly flooded with a piercing light.

I love Donna?

I love her?

Nah. It was ridiculous. It was impossible. Literally impossible, because she'd left him - twice - and he'd be nine kinds of fool to let someone with that track record come within striking distance of what passed for his heart.

He didn't love Donna Moss. He couldn't.

He wouldn't.

***

Donna had just about given up her search, figuring Josh had bolted back to headquarters. She was trying to decide whether to just follow, or whether to call ahead and see if he was there first, when inspiration struck like proverbial lightening. And suddenly she knew where he was.

That's how it happened sometimes, with Josh. Less so now, but back when they'd been at their best she'd always known where he was. It had been like a sixth sense; she'd joked about being tuned to him, but it had only been half exaggeration. And now she could feel that insistent tug in the corner of her mind that told her she was, without doubt, right.

She didn't act on it immediately, wasn't sure if he'd want to be disturbed. Actually, she was fairly sure he wouldn't. He'd be sitting there, brooding, replaying everything over and over and trying to figure out where he'd gone wrong. Then he'd be trying to work out how to fix it with some cockamamie plan that involved two-dozen impossible hoops and, quite possibly, time travel.

She meandered as she thought, slipping between groups of partygoers, skirting wide around Congressman Santos because she was afraid that, right now, she'd have a hard time being polite, and eventually found her way to the door she needed. With a final glance at the spectacle, she left the room without regret and entered the deserted halls of the West Wing.

It felt so strange to be back, it always did. This had been her home for almost six years, she'd practically lived here. And it was still the same, the same postcards tacked above the desks, the same notices about not putting staples in the shredder and instructions for getting the Xerox machine to collate properly. It was all exactly the same, except for the fact that she felt so different. She felt taller, somehow, looking down on these desks that had been her domain for so long. And she knew she'd outgrown it, as wonderful as it had been, this was no longer home. It was a sad thought, and yet exciting; poignant to the point of pain as she approached her own desk and found it the only different thing in the room.

She slowed, her heart beginning to race with nostalgia and something else. Hope, expectation? She wasn't sure. But she could see the light of the desk lamp spilling from Josh's old office and knew that he was in there. For a moment she froze, trapped in an instant of time that seemed to stretch backward and forward all at once. It was her first day, every day she'd spent there with him, and her last day, walking out of the office for good. It all telescoped down into that single moment, standing in the silent bullpen looking at the soft arc of light in the doorway of his office.

It was almost too much, she almost walked away. But like a fish on a lure she was pulled back, inexorably, until her hand came to rest on the doorjamb and she turned into his office.

Josh didn't notice her at first. He was sitting behind his desk, lounged back in his chair, fingers steepled, and lost in thought. Brooding. Donna said nothing, just leaned her shoulder against the door and watched. In the lamplight he looked just as he always had, focused, driven, anxious - like he had the weight of the world resting on his shoulders. And perhaps he did; in his mind he did. Josh Lyman was quite capable of holding himself entirely responsible for the result of the election, and hence the fate of the country, and the free world beyond that.

No surprise he wasn't sleeping. And he wasn't sleeping, she could tell from the shadows in his eyes. At length, when it seemed he'd never rouse from his contemplation, Donna found her voice. "Do you need anything?"

His attention snapped to her, and for an instant she saw a flash of intense pain in his eyes. It was gone as soon as it arrived, replaced by a determined frown. "Run out of wantons?"

"I'm wantoned out," she said, easing into the room. It looked different now, someone else's clutter on the desk, Josh's photos gone from the walls. Yet it was still acutely familiar, and the profound sense of nostalgia it provoked was shocking. She hadn't expected to feel so much. "This is strange," she said, looking around, running her hand over the shelves she knew so well.

Josh said nothing, but his gaze dipped to the desk and stayed there. "What do you want, Donna?"

Defensive. Hurting, that much she could see. Carefully, not giving him an excuse to storm off, she perched on the visitor's chair and said, "What happened tonight?"

"What do you think?"

"I don't know what to think. I've heard rumours."

He quirked a humourless smile. "Are they saying Santos fired me?"

Santos? Not 'the Congressman'? She felt a sick twist of rage in her stomach. "Some are, some aren't," she answered, although mostly it was the former. "So…did he?"

Josh laughed, grimly. "No. He sent Leo to do it."

She just stared for a long moment, disbelief pounding in her ears. Eventually she scratched out, "Leo?"

"Yeah," he laughed again, abruptly sitting forward in the chair, arms on the desk and looking at her for the first time since she'd walked through the door. "Can you believe that?"

Donna shook her head, too shocked to know what to say. "Josh…" It came out more like a plea. "Did he…? Were you…?"

"No." He shook his head, then scrubbed his hands over his face. "No, Leo didn't do it. He said-" A dark smile touched his lips. "While he's got a job, I got a job, I guess."

Donna cocked her head. "You think he felt sorry for you?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Want to know what I think?"

Josh glanced up, his smile a fraction warmer than bleak. "Do I have a choice?"

"I think Leo knows exactly how good you are, and that Matt Santos is a panty-waist who's too scared to do his own dirty work."

Josh's smiled twisted into a full-blown smirk. "A…panty-waist?"

Donna folded her arms in defiance. "Yes."

"What the hell is a panty-waist?"

She blinked. "What?"

"Is that some kind of obscure Wisconsin insult? Or unique to the Moss family?"

"It's not obscure, everyone says it."

"No one says it."

"I say it all the time!"

He laughed, and it actually sounded like he meant it. "You have never said that! Believe me, if you had I'd have…mocked you. A lot."

"That," she said, "I can believe."

He smiled again, but it dissolved into a sigh and his gaze began to drift around the office. Melancholy, Donna thought. He looked melancholy.

"Do you miss it?" she asked quietly. "The White House?"

He nodded slowly, eyes fixed on the door out to the bullpen. "Everyday."

His accidental choice of word made her heart stutter. "Me too," she said, feeling herself unexpectedly choke-up. She tried to laugh it off, but knew her smile was watery.

Josh stared at her, like a rabbit caught in headlights. After a long, painful silence he said, "Really?"

The genuine disbelief in his voice twisted Donna's heart. "Of course," she said shakily. "What did you think?"

He blinked, taut as an over-wound spring. "I think that you…left."

"I didn't leave because-"

Josh pushed to his feet so fast his chair knocked into the wall behind the desk, and the sound made Donna jump. "Let's not do this," he said abruptly, skirting around the desk and heading for the door.

"Josh!"

He stopped, shoulders rigid with tension. "Donna…" He didn't turn around. "I'm really not- I can't handle another round of 'crappiest boss of the year' okay? Not right now."

"I don't want to do that either," she said, and meant it for possibly the first time since she'd left. "I want to…" She sighed, walking to stand in front of him and blocking his route to the door. "Remember when I left the first time?"

He blinked, and looked like he wanted to run. Or climb a wall. Anything to escape. "The first time?"

"On the campaign."

"Oh. Yeah."

"And remember what happened next?"

"I don't know-"

"I came back, Josh." She offered him a tentative smile. "I came back because you'd offered me the chance to live a life so much bigger than the one I was leading. And I knew I'd been stupid to throw it away."

"What's your point?" He grated the words out, as if he was barely breathing.

"My point," she said, taking a step closer, "is that I came back."

Josh shook his head and made a move to get past her. "Donna, I have work to-"

She grabbed his arm and stopped him again, but he had his back to her now and didn't turn around. "I came back this time too," she said, more urgently. "Don't you get it?"

"You didn't come back Donna," he said, unable to hide the bitterness in his voice, "you got a new job, that's all. You're building your résumé."

She let go of his arm and watched it drop to his side. "You think I wasn't offered half a dozen jobs after the Russell campaign?" she asked. "Better paying too, some of them."

He turned, enough that she could see his face in profile. "Then why…?"

"Because I wanted to work for the real thing."

His mouth twisted into another sour smile. "Yeah? Well, after tonight I've got my doubts about Matthew Santos."

Donna let the silence ride for a long beat, and then quietly said, "I wasn't talking about Matthew Santos."

A subtle shiver danced across his features, his mouth opened as if he were about to talk. Slowly, cautiously, he turned toward her. "You mean…me?"

Her smile broke out like sunshine. "Josh," she sighed, awash with affection. "Joshua, Joshua…" He didn't say anything, at least not in words, but his eyes were suddenly so intense she could barely meet his gaze. "You know your problem?" she said, taking a step closer, right into his space. He didn't back away, but he did swallow. Hard. "You never think things all the way through, Josh."

Eyebrows rising he squeaked, "I don't?"

"Didn't you ever consider the…advantages of me leaving?"

He shook his head, suddenly guileless. "There were advantages?"

Donna felt like she was skating out too far on the lake and had no idea if the ice was about to crack beneath her feet. But she couldn't help herself, the thrill kept her moving relentlessly forward. She smiled, although her fingers trembled as she lifted them and tugged on the ends of his bowtie. "Like, for example, now I can do this…" The silk slipped undone and she dropped the ends against his chest. Keeping her eyes fixed downward, her heart hammering an uneven beat, she reached for the button at his throat and began to undo it. "And this…"

"Why would you-" Josh coughed and the squeak transformed into a husky growl. "Why would you want to do that?"

Slowly she lifted her eyes to his. "Why do you think?"

"I don't know, I-"

She didn't give him time to finish, instead closing the distance between them with a kiss that had been brewing for eight aching years. It exploded like an armoury of fireworks, burning bright and intense for a long, glorious moment until, abruptly, he pulled away and staggered backward. "I can't-" He gasped, staring at her in absolute panic. Utterly lost. "I- I'm sorry."

And then he was gone, bolting from the room, and leaving Donna in pieces in his wake.

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